Chipotle Mexican Grill may soon require employees to be vaccinated
Once federal health officials officially approve COVID vaccines, Chipotle Mexican Grill could require workers to be vaccinated, CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement on Wednesday. video interview with the Washington Post.
Chipotle is one of a growing number of companies considering establishing vaccination mandates for workers – including many in the restaurant industry – to increase vaccination rates.
Some also require that guests be vaccinated. Although many operators are reluctant to put their workers in the role of inoculation police for the general public, especially after witnessing the backlash from wearing the mask.
But requiring workers to be vaccinated – with accommodations for some employees – is a viable option, lawyers say.
Also for many employers, the lack of Food and Drug Administration approval for vaccines used in the United States is a sticking point. Currently, the FDA has approved Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for emergency use, although reports indicate full approval could come within weeks
The increase in COVID cases resulting from the highly contagious Delta variant has yet to impact customer foot traffic in Chipotle, Niccol said. But the company is increasingly seeing workers excluded because they have COVID or have come into contact with someone with COVID.
Chipotle requires workers to wear masks and signs at the door recommend that customers wear masks – although employees are not required to wear police masks, he said. Rather than seeing a national mask mandate, Niccol said, “My preference would be for everyone to get vaccinated and we’ll move on.”
Earlier this year, Chipotle offered a two-for-one burrito incentive to encourage guests to get the shot. But Chipotle has refrained from requiring the injections for workers due to lack of FDA approval, Niccol said.
“What we are waiting for is the final approval of the vaccine,” he said.
If and when this happens, the company tends to require vaccines to be able to return to the office or for large employee gatherings, he said. Chipotle organizes events that bring together up to 4000 people. “In order to attend this event, we are going to get everyone vaccinated to make sure it’s safe,” he said.
“Hopefully where we end up is a very good place in immunization rates and that we can go back to socializing as before,” Niccol added.
A worker’s tenure will soon have an impact on Chipotle units in New York.
There, restaurant workers and customers must be vaccinated for dining inside, starting in September. Details of how this will be executed are still being worked out, and “it’s going to be tricky,” Niccol said.
Lawyers at the law firm Fisher Phillips writes that there are a number of options for employers who wish to increase vaccination rates among their staff, ranging from information campaigns and incentives to outright mandates.
Interest in employee mandates seems to be growing, according to Fisher Phillips. The law firm, which has a large hospitality practice, surveyed clients this week and found that the proportion of employers mandating or considering a vaccine mandate has quadrupled in the past three months.
With 724 respondents, the survey found that 15% of employers are now either mandating the vaccine or considering a tenure as a condition of employment, a dramatic jump from the 4% who said the same thing in May.
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